Staring Down the Giant

 

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…”Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. The LORD your God, who is going before you, will fight for you…” Deuteronomy 1:29-30

Every morning, the same feeling of dread washes over me. I have to pass a house that has a terrifying German Shepherd stalking its backyard. I am a huge animal lover, but we’re talking about a giant, beastly creature with long white teeth and incessant barking that reverberates in my chest. He lives behind a 6-foot privacy fence, but that doesn’t stop him from intimidating all who walk by.

Every time I pass his property, he jumps up and down barking with his head, full of snarling teeth, bobbing, running back and forth along the fence. I feel one day he may jump just high enough to clear the fence and come after me.

Each time I approach the house, I feel my blood pressure rise. Even if I’m talking on the phone or jamming to my favorite tunes, in the back of my mind I am hoping this isn’t the day he jumps the fence; hoping the fence gate is shut – and locked. Hoping this won’t be the day…as I read the “Beware of dog” sign posted nearby.

Recently, I turned the street corner with my dog and was distracted by something that had caught my eye. I looked forward and staring back at me was this beast – standing in the middle of the road, staring me down. With four legs braced, neck stretched forward and head bent low, his eyes locked onto mine.

I froze in my step and lost my breath.

There was nowhere to go. I know better than to run the other way. I’m not into playing chase, me being the fetching toy. I was stuck in the middle of this lonely road, just my dog, this beast, and me.

I had to walk past it. I puffed up my posture and squared my jaw. Holding my head high, with palms sweating, I prayed – hard. As my dog and I got closer it didn’t budge, not an inch. Visions flashed in my mind of this beast attacking my dog who is no match for him; visions of me getting tangled up in her leash and being caught in the middle of the two dogs; visions of it coming straight for me, and this dog stands as tall as me (easy) on his hind legs. I felt faint.

Walking slowly toward it, I prayed more and more and more.

Just as I approached it, the dog’s owner appeared from his garage. Nervous relief swept over me, and I felt a cold chill run down my spine as I passed by this beast. He called the dog inside and it reluctantly followed, but it never took its eyes off of me. I don’t think I drew a breath until I hit the next block.

Life is like this sometimes. We’re just doing our daily thing and wham! out of nowhere stands our Goliath. Like my fear of the beast getting loose, our worst nightmare comes true before our very eyes. A bad medical report, the pink slip of unemployment, a spouse packs up and leaves, a prodigal child disappears, death of family and friends, physical and psychological threats to us, our family, our country and there we are standing alone, staring at Goliath. It’s real. You can see it, hear it, and feel its presence.

Running the other way doesn’t make Goliath any less real. We must approach it.

What changed for me in that moment was the beast’s owner making himself visible. Instantly, he was the one in control of the situation because he controls the beast.

As a believer, we are not left to fend for ourselves in this big, scary world. We have God who fights for us, Jesus who intercedes for us, and the Holy Spirit who encourages and comforts us. We are never alone.

Bad things happen to everyone, but nothing happens without it passing through the Father’s hands first whether we understand it in this lifetime or eternity. If we live, may we live for the sake of Christ’s salvation. If we suffer, may it not be in vain, but be a testimony to others that God alone is enough and Jesus is worth it. After all, He believes we are worth the suffering He endured. If we die, may it not be for nothing, but somehow God will get the glory through it so others would come to know Him as their one true God.

Believers don’t get a pass on the bad stuff. We endure illness, unemployment, broken hearts, loss, and betrayal. We suffer, get angry, wrestle with forgiveness, feel lost, get frustrated, and question the future. But, God is right there, every step, talking us down from our ledges. He is our sanity in this insane world. Christ is hope. Courage. Joy. The Holy Spirit is right there to remind us of times that God was faithful to us, even when we were unfaithful to Him.

What’s your Goliath today? If you’re staring it down by yourself, ask God to come to you through the saving grace of Christ. Let Him go before you. Whether or not He calls off the dogs, you will not be alone.

No matter how big our Goliaths are, God is bigger. He is stronger and His strength in us is enough to stare down our giants.

God is always fighting for us. Sometimes He battles our giants for us. Other times He calls us onto the battlefield with Him where we overcome – not only our giants – but our own fears and weaknesses as well. And that, friend, is a double victory.

With God, we can look past the Goliath standing in front of us and focus on our hope in Christ.

<<CLICK HERE for this blog’s Tunes page for a great song to see hope, not Goliath, in life’s scariest moments.>>

 

* photo credit

 

 

 

The prayer I’m tempted to take back

 

Copyrighted photos for Real Deep Stuff - Page 207

While preparing to travel abroad for mission work this summer, one day I felt particularly daring and prayed a prayer I will never forget…

Lord, I don’t want to be comfortable or safe, I just want to be equipped.

Since then, I have eaten those words a hundred times.

Oh I was sincere alright. So sincere that God Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, heard me and accepted the challenge. I had no idea what I had done.

You see, this prayer didn’t stop with mission work. He has carried it over into every facet of my life! While millions of Christians around the globe spend their quiet time in the mornings reading Scripture, meditating on his Word, writing prayer lists, reading thought-provoking devotions, writing thought-provoking devotions, sitting in reverent silence, worshiping in song, snuggled up in their comfy chair or nestled on the subway or somewhere in between, my quiet time was anything but quiet.

My mind was about to explode. With my heart beating out of my chest in stress and distress, I could no more sit quietly than I could have sang a worship song. So much angst swelled up in me that the taste of bitter adrenaline filled my mouth as sweat poured down the back of my neck. I had a morning chat with God and it went something like this (all caps intended) –

WHERE ARE YOU?!?!?!?!? EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. THIS HAPPENS YOU DISAPPEAR! WHY AM I LEFT TO DEFEND, AND FEND FOR, MYSELF? 

AREN’T YOU SUPPOSED TO BE MY GOOD FATHER? I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THAT LOOKS LIKE! BOTH OF MY FATHERS QUIT AND WALKED OUT ON ME DECADES AGO! I THOUGHT YOU HAD MY BACK!

WHERE ARE YOU? WHY DON’T YOU MOVE. ACT. SAY SOMETHING WHEN THIS HAPPENS!!! WHY AM I LEFT ALONE IN THIS!

(With shoulders tight and nostrils flared…)

I CAN’T TAKE THIS ANYMORE! EVERY TIME THIS HAPPENS, YOU JUST STAND BY SILENTLY! I CAN’T DO THIS ANYMORE! WHERE ARE YOU!

That was my prayer time. I was fuming mad at God and was screaming so loud in my head I can’t believe people nearby couldn’t hear me. My jaw was clenched shut and gave me a headache. I ended my prayer time madder than when it began.

Later, all that stress and anxiety and anger welled up again when the situation returned. This time, I didn’t have the fight in me.

Through hot, salty tears I prayed with head hung low in despair – with a broken, bruised and bleeding heart –

Why God? Why are you letting this happen over and over? I’m not strong enough to handle this.

His response, You wanted to be equipped, not comfortable or safe. 

Well yeah, but come on!

Didn’t you want to be equipped? Isn’t this what you prayed for?

Yeah, but why do I have to do it alone?

You’re not alone. 

I don’t have the strength. 

Yes you do. Philippians 4:13. It’s Christ’s strength in you.

But where are you in those dreadful moments? I don’t hear you. See you. Nothing. I call to you, but I get silence.

I’m not silent. I’m just not working in the ways you want me to. You asked to be equipped. What you want is for me to fix the problem when frankly it may be you who I am concentrating my work on in the moment..to equip and all.

Then God reminded me of how far we’ve come together. Things that used to break me don’t anymore. What used to send me to tears doesn’t anymore.

My emotional stamina, if you will, has been greatly strengthened one giant-slaying victory at a time.

This time it was about spiritual stamina.

When the enemy is foaming at the mouth, spewing lies and taunting me. When he plays dirty and takes no prisoners. When he knows exactly which buttons to push and which weaknesses to press his heel into and knows precisely which tangible mediums to work through, how do I respond?

Do I fold into a lump on the floor and give up? Do I give in? Do I run away?

This time. This day was different. Where before I responded in those ways, this time I closed my eyes and recalled Scripture. All that came out was something like, God is good all the time. He knows. He sees. He saves. He is Truth and is who I am going to listen to.

I may not have fought back with tangible means, but I picked up the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, and fought back with all my his might.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. – 2 Timothy 3:16-17

The battle was gruesome. Raw. Emotionally bloody. The enemy took aim at me and released the hounds of fear, incompetence, failure and discouragement. I am here to say he was defeated.

Exhausted, I tend my wounds and ask God to heal those that need the touch of the Master Surgeon. But I am in tact. Stronger. And I am finally starting to get it.

God heard my original prayer forsaking comfort and safety in his name, if only I would be equipped for his work. I have learned this prayer is not for the faint of heart, of which I have been countless times.

He is answering me through tough training. Brutal battles. Yet he is also giving me eyes to see exactly where he was in those moments. He makes sure to point out his hand in the fight, just to reassure me that I am not alone.

I can’t deny his works. He is right. He is there in every moment. Every. Single. Moment.

I am learning what I thought I already knew – God will not only get the victory, but he wants me to share in it so I am strengthened by him and through him and because of him.

With that strength he is equipping, yet it is anything but comfortable or safe.

Silent Conversations

With the days that may pass quietly on this blog, it is not for a lack of words.  Plenty of conversation is happening, but until now I couldn’t seem open my mouth and speak it.

I have felt so utterly alone in this, and it’s that sense of isolation that has kept me gagged.

See, I have a secret – sort of.  Only a limited number of people know about this…so does it still make it a secret?  It sure feels that way.  This secret is haunting me.  Well, haunting is not the right word…convicting me.

Not through guilt or fear, but a relentless nudging, prodding, and pulling that won’t leave me be.  I’ve been on the run from this for 3 and a half years.  For a season, other weighty matters pressed this way down in my soul, and I could ignore it most days.

Now, and I have no idea why now, it has emerged from the depth of my heart and won’t be silent.

However, there is not just one silent conversation going on in me – there are two.  These are the words…

* * * * * * * * * *

Do this.

I can’t.

She’s right, she can’t and she’s foolish to even consider it.

I know you can’t, but with Me you can.

I just simply can’t.  Please don’t ask me.

I didn’t ask you, I called you.

Why would you call her?  She’s got nothing to offer!

Do this.

But I’m not smart enough.  Strong enough.  I am not enough.

She’s right.  She’s nothing.

I’m nothing.

You are who I say you are, and you are My beloved.

Well, perhaps I am that to You, but that doesn’t mean I can do this.

She can’t do this.

It’s not about what you think you can or can’t do, it’s about what I am going to do through you.

Okay, wait, that’s what I don’t understand.  How can You use me for this?  There are a thousand other people who would do this far better than I ever could.

Yeah, let me name them.  She’s not your girl.

You are Mine, and this is what I have decided – you’re it.

You know I love You, and I’ll do anything for You, but this?  I’m just not good enough.  I don’t know where to go from here.

She’ll go nowhere – that’s where.

You’re halfway there, but you have frozen on the path.  Just take the next step.

Yeah, that next step is off a cliff for her it will be such a disaster!

I am terrified to move my feet.

I know you are, that’s why I am here to walk with you.

You know I want closure with this more than anything right now, but I’ve been stuck for 3 and a half years.  I forgot how to take the next step.

She’ll never do it.

What are you afraid of that I cannot handle for you?

If you really want to know – fear of commitment, failure, success, judgement, rejection, being laughed at, being criticized, not being taken seriously, not getting others’ approval, giving up my privacy, asking “now what” when it’s done.  Most of all, I am terrified at the thought of letting You down.

Letting Me down?  I’ve called you to obedience.  Only I know where to take it from there, and My measure of achievement looks very different from the world’s.

Get serious.  There is no way she is going to go through with this.  There is too much already in a day to do, and she’ll never muster the courage it would take to shut me up long enough to fully listen to You.  She’s not connected, not talented, not anything it takes to do this – especially to Your standard!!!!

I only ask for obedience from you.  The rest is up to Me.  You are making this too hard.  Just take the next step.  Will you trust Me?

* * * * * * * * * *

I suppose sharing this on my blog is taking the next step, because it calls some accountability into play.  Four years ago, God came to me and gave me a task.  One I didn’t understand, but jumped in with both feet.  I got totally lost in His project, and when I finally made it through the forest of His work, I was changed.  He called me to write a Bible study.

Like there aren’t already a bagillon of studies written by much more skilled people than me.  But I cannot deny that He unequivocally called me to do this.  So I did.

When it was finished, I asked a panel of people to take the study and critique it.  This group consists of men and women ranging from their 20’s to their 70’s.  They represent at least five different church denominations, geographical locations and socioeconomic statuses.  It was a great sample of people who generously gave their time and energy to help make this study the best it can be.

Then I asked for our pastor’s blessing on it.  Check.

It’s ready for the next step.  But am I?

Through this process, I have been wounded by some of the enemy’s arsenal and it ain’t pretty.  He doesn’t play fair.  To my surprise, but as my husband lovingly pointed out, negativity is an issue for me.  I’ve been a self-proclaimed optimist my entire life as a tool for surviving a childhood riddled with pain, trauma, crisis, loss and fear.  But somewhere, deep deep inside my spirit, a weakness for negative thinking (as a result of said childhood) is a small, back door for the enemy to creep in through the form of discouragement.

I had no idea how much discouragement can sabotage my thoughts, feelings and actions.  I give in every time and hate that!  Discouragement leads to doubt, which leads to all sorts of condemning thoughts like: Why would anyone give your study the time of day?  Who do you think you are?  Leave this to the professional authors and teachers.  No publisher asked you to do this.  This is the big time – and you’re a small deal.  You’ll make a fool out of yourself.

Frustrated, I admit that I have bought that lie too many times and tucked this study back in the cabinet.

But, as a believer, I cannot tuck God’s voice in the crevice of my heart.  He is irresistible and I love that about Him.  He is speaking, and I must respond with either a yes or a no (her hands tremble as she types).

This will be a true walk of faith – especially because of the second thing He asked of me.  First, He called me to write the study.  Second, He called me to give it away for free.  Yep, free.

He told me it is my offering to Him, and you know what?  I am totally okay with that.  So, with His help to get this study published, the goal is to offer it on this blog, as well as in all of the major book retailers as a downloadable study at absolutely no cost to the reader.

At first, my inner child whined, But it took me soooo long?  I have so much invested in this project.  Free, really? (Not that I wouldn’t WANT to give it away, but typically that’s not done in the book industry.)

His response was undeniable, Every person I call to take this study should have access to it regardless if they have any money to pay for it.

Well okay then.  I just can’t argue with that.  And thinking about this over a few months since He told me this, I have grown to completely embrace this idea and wouldn’t want it any other way.

So, today I get loud about the silent conversations that have been at war within me.  This has been a major preoccupation and has consumed my daily thoughts, to the point where I feel I will be held accountable to Him if I don’t finish this project.  As I lift my foot to take the next step, I do so with utter humility in the covering of His grace, begging for confirmation every moment that He’s with me in this or I’m not doing it (Exodus 33:15-17).  I have no earthly idea what He intends to do with this study, but He has heavenly plans that will be revealed in their sweet time.  He inspired it, wrote it, is pushing for it to be published and will send it to where He intends it to go.

May He give it wings to fly.

What about you?  Have you had similar battles of words in your heart?  Is there something purposeful and biblical that God has asked of you that you know you can’t deny, but don’t know what to do with?  What is that next step He is calling you to?  What keeps you from taking it?

When we take ourselves out of the equation, and remember it’s all about Him, the next step becomes crystal clear.  Thankfully, just like with Moses, Abraham, Joshua, Mary & Joseph, Ruth, Esther, Nehemiah, and so many others in the Bible, God promises He won’t leave us to fend for ourselves.  He doesn’t give us a wink and a grin and says, Good luck with that.  He goes before us to lead; He protects us from behind; and walks along side us for company.

Let’s abandon our notions of success and failure, and realize all over again that all He asks of us is obedience. The results are up to Him.

It feels good to lay my discouragement, doubts and fears on the table and expose them for what they are – lies.  God’s plan is unstoppable, and it’s with joy I jump up and down with hand raised high like a child who excitedly begs to be called on by the teacher saying, Pick me! Pick me!

I want to be a part of what God is doing.  How about you?  Whatever that looks like.  Wherever that leads.  God, give us courage to do what You ask of us. Strengthen us to complete the task. Encourage our wary hearts.  Ignite an unquenchable, thirsty passion in our souls for You and this world You love so much.  I’m all in.  Are you?